FAMILY PHOTO: Texan Erma Stites, left, photographs Frances Hewlett alongside the new Model T Ford landmark tribute to Route 66 and one of its founders, Cyrus Avery. Hewlett is sister to the installation’s artist, Robert Summers.
BETH TURNER for GTR Newspapers
On Nov. 9, Tulsans celebrated the addition of the “East Meets West” artwork on the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Centennial Plaza, at the intersection of Southwest Boulevard and Riverside Drive.
The 20,000-pound bronze sculpture, built 135 percent of actual size, puts the finishing touch on the landmark Route 66 plaza, built in 2008. A memorial to Cyrus Avery, “Father of Route 66,” the 40-foot-long, 15-foot-wide and 14-foot-high artwork represents how Route 66 and the bridge marked where old met new and the past met the future. The $1,177,841 sculpture was designed by Texas artist Robert Summers.
The sculpture tells the story of an encounter between the Avery family riding in a vintage 1926 Model T Ford automobile and a horse-drawn wagon coming from the west Tulsa oil fields. The wagon driver has his hands full with both horses rearing up from being startled by the automobile. As the figure representing Cyrus Avery exits his vehicle and is standing with one foot on the running board, his wife reaches back for their daughter.
Although Route 66 was decommissioned as a federal highway in 1985, Tulsa has chosen to keep the memory of the Mother Road alive through recent enhancement and promotion projects, including signs marking the route, improvements to the 11th Street Arkansas River Bridge, construction of the adjacent Cyrus Avery Route 66 Centennial Plaza, and restoration of the historic Meadow Gold sign.
Cyrus Stephens Avery served as Tulsa County Commissioner, Oklahoma Highway Commis-sioner and consulting highway specialist to the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads. Avery’s influence and efforts with the bureau created a highway that stretched across eight states and three time zones from Chicago to Los Angeles – a road that would become known as Route 66.